When 1966 World Cup came to Sheffield

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50 years after Sheffield star shot-stopper Gordon Banks helped England lift Jules Rimet Trophy, we rewind to recall when the World Cup came to South Yorkshire.

Hillsborough was among seven grounds nationwide to stage games, hosting four matches including three first round ties featuring heavyweights West Germany, Argentina and Spain as well as a quarter final (highlights relived here).

Recent coverage http://www.thestar.co.uk/retro/retro-when-hillsborough-hosted-the-world-cup-1-79957 reports how The Star has helped stage Football’s Coming Home exhibition at The Moor Market until August 6, celebrating life on Steel City streets in the year that changed English football history.

“It wasn’t quite the multi-billion pound event it is now but it was still brilliant to have it here,” remembers Chris Hobbs, an amateur historian of Crookes who attended three of the fixtures.

“It was great for fans who could go and watch these exotic internationals from far flung lands but it was also great for the city.

“I was only 13 but there was such a buzz about the place. There were flags everywhere and I remember Penistone Road was spruced up. I was too young to go out on an evening at that point but I’m pretty sure the pubs would have done a roaring trade.”

Hillsborough scoreboard signals 1966 World Cup coming to the city

Hillsborough scoreboard signals 1966 World Cup coming to the city

Sheffield tourism boss Eddie Holland had no qualms telling BBC news that entertainment for foreign visitors would include nightly “girly show” at The Lyceum.

The city was decorated with flags and flowers, German clock and mini-funfair were installed in Fitzalan Square, and bars were encouraged to stay open later.

“Plans are in place for a nightclub in City Hall,” noted Mr Holland before the tournament kicked off. “We are going to decorate the city with flowers and have illuminations up and have banners and bands playing.

“I would like to see the shops stay open until 10 o’clock or midnight. We shall have umbrellas and tables in the street so people can dine out.

“Other things that would be worth while would be a beer garden next to the Town Hall. But above all late night drinking in the hotels and existing bars and restaurants.”

On the playing field itself, games held here included three group B clashes in which West German walloped Switzerland 5-0, Spain beat Switzerland 2-1, and Argentina defeated Switzerland 2-0. A quarter-final saw West Germany beat Uruguay 4-0.

They were the first competitive internationals in the city since October 1962 when France draw 1-1 with England in a European Nations Cup qualifying match, itself England’s last competitive game in Sheffield).

“I rather hoped Switzerland would do well in the World Cup because they were based in the city but they were lightweights really,” remembered Chris. “I remember I went and watched them train at Abbeydale Park in Totley - got their autographs and everything.

“It would have been terrific if England had won the bid for the 2018 World Cup and games had been played here again but I suppose it wasn’t to be. We can only hope that one day, Sheffield - the birth place of football, after all - does get the tournament once more.”

NOT EVERYTHING WENT WELL

THE World Cup brought something of a carnival atmosphere to Sheffield in 1966. But not everyone enjoyed it as much as they might.

Switzerland were based in the city, staying at the new £1 million Hallam Tower hotel in Broomhill. Possibly, however, they enjoyed Sheffield’s nightlife a little too much. Two players were dropped after staying out beyond a curfew the evening before a match, while the team lost all three of their games.

An Overseas Visitors Lounge, set up especially in Cutlers Hall to serve hot food and drink until 2am, had a somewhat limited impact. Not a single tourist ordered the grill dinner after 10pm, reported this paper. Supervisor Jessie Cox noted: “It makes you wonder if all the effort was worth while.”

If there’s one thing a football fan enjoys more than success, it’s the opportunity to moan. It didn’t matter that England would eventually win the World Cup, the team were still booed during their first match at Wembley when they could only muster a 0-0 draw with Uruguay.

STEEL CITY GAMES AT A GLANCE

Group B ties

July 12: West Germany 5 - 0 Switzerland (Att: 36,000)

July 15: Spain 2 - 1 Switzerland (Att: 32,000)

July 19: Argentina 2 - 0 Switzerland (Att: 32,000)

Quarter-final

July 23: West Germany 4 - 0 Uruguay (Att: 34,000)

Were you there? Share your photos and memories.